Adam R. Paul | May 9, 200611:06 PM     3

Hi folks,

My gf Sarah & I strolled down to check out NOPA last week. In short, based on our one visit we're thrilled to have such a place within walking distance of our apartment! Long version follows:

This new (as of April 2006) restaurant in the Western Addition, located in a former bank building, is stylishly decorated and has a fairly typical cal-cuisine menu.

Sarah & I arrived at 5:20 on a Thursday and found that the bar is open, but the restaurant doesn't start serving until 6. OK, a fine excuse to sample their cocktails and enjoy the surroundings!

The interior is modern, but warm, with a funky mural depicting Divisadero St. storefronts on one side, a very high, open-beam ceiling, with a small upstairs dining area, the main dining room, an open kitchen, and a long bar. I started with an Old Cuban ($7), white rum, mint, sugar, lime juice and cava (Spanish dry sparkling wine). It was sort of mojito-like, but the very dry cava gave it a different, lighter flavor than a traditional mojito. Sarah had a Dark and Stormy (also $7), which is Goslings dark rum, ginger beer and lime. Very tasty indeed - I think I liked it better than my drink! We talked to the friendly bartender for a while to pass the time, and, only because it was still before six, had to order another round. Sarah had a lemon drop and I had The Last Word ($6), a daring concoction of gin, marachino, chartreuse and lime. It was unusual to say the least!

Once 6 rolled around, we were promptly seated upstairs by our friendly waitress. After a quick perusal of the smallish menu, Sarah started with a mixed greens salad ($6) and I ordered the breaded whole small fish (anchovies - I had to ask) atop greens ($8). The salad was basic, but good, and my breaded anchovies were excellent, nicely crispy and served with a tasty aioli. I thought it was a generous portion for $8, perhaps 10 smallish fish.

For our mains, Sarah couldn't resist the yummy-looking rotisserie chicken ($17), normally served with arugula, mustard and watercress greens, but as she dislikes arugula, the kitchen was good enough to substitute mashed potatoes. I ordered a fillet of sturgeon with artichoke, peas and asparagus ($19).

The chicken was delicious, stuffed with herbs under the skin, and perfectly moist, yet crispy on the outside, mmmmm! The mashed potatoes too were done just right - not overly processed, but not too lumpy either. My sturgeon (the only time I've had it that I can recall) was tender and firm with a mild flavor. The greens atop it gave it a bright earthiness that I rather liked. Sarah had a glass of syrah ($6.50) and I a Nebbiolo red ($12), both of which were good, if a touch expensive in my case.

For dessert we split the bourbon-infused creme brulee ($7), which was possibly the most wonderful brulee I've ever had! Perfectly smooth and even inside, with a lot of that delightful burned sugar crust on top - I regretted our decision to share, however, as I wanted the whole thing to myself! The Ferreira 15-year-old tawny port ($14) I had was good, but not worth the money, IMO.

Our bill came to $97.11 including tax but not tip (also not counting the 4 cocktails we had at the bar while waiting for 6:00 to roll around). Given the nice surroundings, great service, and excellent food, we felt this represented a good value for the money. We were also intrigued by the long communal table next to the bar for casual dining-with-strangers-style eating - it looked perfect for stopping in for a couple of drinks and appetizers (or dessert!).

Our server checked in on us a few times, and our water was refilled as needed. We both agreed that our service was casual and friendly, yet professional - just how we like it. Based on this one visit, we are very happy to have NOPA nearby, as it's probably the best restaurant within reasonable walking distance from our apartment. Four thumbs up!

Link: http://www.nopasf.com

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